HAMLIN — The battle resumes at 9:30 a.m., Friday.
That’s when Lincoln County’s commission, sitting in its role as a board of canvassers, will convene to respond to requests for changes in canvass results and a recount of the tied race for onea of two Democrat nominations for house of delegates in the 22nd District. Incumbent Jeff Eldridge easily won the first of the two positions but incumbent Josh Barker and former Lincoln school board member Gary McCallister were tied for the second spot when votes were canvassed last week. Parts of Boone, Lincoln, Logan and Putnam counties make up the district. The primary election was held May 13.
While having a disproportionate amount of provisional or challenged ballots, the county commission voted not to count those that were cast by voters who are residents of the county but voted in the incorrect precinct. Both Barker and McCallister appear to agree that those votes should be counted. But Barker has raised the issue of a discrepancy in vote totals appearing on cumulative election results in Lincoln. A print-out from election night shows a total number of votes that is only 18 less than the number the same report shows counted during the canvass. The problem with that scenario is that the board of canvassers voted to allow 26 additional ballots, including 22 in District 22, to be counted. Barker’s attorney said this week that her candidate wants to know “where those other four or eight votes are. The board voted to count them but they apparently were not all counted in the canvass.”
While McCallister requested a recount of 12 of Lincoln’s 14 precincts in District 22, Barker has requested that all 14 be recounted by hand. Before that happens, though, Barker is asking that the board reconsider the ballots they tossed due to the residency issue. In addition, he has asked that the board reconcile the numbers from the election night count to that announced after the canvass.
Neither candidate requested recounts in Boone, Logan or Putnam counties, according to those respective county clerks.
Lincoln Commission President K.K. Matthews said he has “repeatedly” asked County Clerk Diril Baker for an explanation of the discrepancies in the totals. “I have asked in person; I have asked by email and by phone,” said Matthews. “The numbers simply don’t add up and it isn’t the county commission’s fault. We voted to count 26 ballots. Why did they only count 18?”
Some longtime observers think the recount process will not move forward without consultation with a judge not to ask for a judge to look at what’s going on.”
For Matthews’ part, he believes the county is taking a “bad rap” for being criticized during this election. “We know reporters, especially those in Charleston, like poking fun at our county while claiming we’ve never had an honest election. Well, I think the voters gave us an honest election in 2012 and another one in 2014. There was no foul play, no playing favorites, we did it right. Any worker, any one of us can make an honest error, but I think these results are 99 percent on the money. They’re right.”
But even if they are, Barker wants to know how the 26 ballots could have been counted when only 18 are shown as tabulated. “Win or lose, I want to see every vote counted,” Barker said. “If, after that Gary McCallister is one or 100 votes ahead of me, I’ll shake his hand, congratulate him, campaign for him and vote for him in November. I am a Democrat. I want my party to win and hold the majority in the house of delegates. I will be a true party man..”
At press time, it did not appear that McCallister was going to ask for a ruling to ask that the two precincts he did not ask for in Lincoln not be counted.
If the canvassing boards have now clearly named a winner in the race within 30 days and certified that winner to the secretary of state, a senate district Democrat executive committee would break the tie by choosing on of the candidates. If the committee cannot break it, the governor would do so. Historically, the district executive committee chose Barker unanimously to report to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin when the governor made the appointment to replace Delegate Josh Stowers, who resigned. The odds are that the executive committee and governor would both be inclined to name Barker, based on history.
However, it i far more likely McCallister will pick up more actual votes than Barker in any recount. After all, McCallister defeated Barker, 3-2, in Lincoln. Odds say that pattern would run though whatever number of ballots re counted. in other words, it ten ene up counted, six will be for McCallister and four for Barker.
Details of the recount and election process will appear in this newspaper.